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Online trends: using the web for media careers advice

One thing I wish I’d figured out five years ago, back when I worked for Media Training North West, was this: when trying to attract people who need media careers advice, market the outcome – media jobs – not the service. In hindsight I feel pretty stupid to have only come to this conclusion more recently: a classic case of when working non-commercially, and at the beck and call of funders, one can easily fail to see the wood for the trees. However, that burial in detail has some value in knowing what is good media careers advice, compared to where users online are trying to find it.

Here’s a table comparing search volume on Google for “media careers” (blue line) and “media jobs” (red line):

Google insights chart of media careers v media jobs search volume, UK, 12 months

Roughly speaking, there’s ten times as much search interest in “media jobs” over “media careers”, and that’s just over the last 12 months. The top 5 SERPs for the first term aren’t, from my experience, necessarily the places where you’re sure to find the relevant jobs – indeed, it’s a sector where the majority of jobs aren’t advertised, particularly if we’re talking about broadcast and film.

Google is overwhelmingly used by the under-informed  so we can assume that a considerable chunk of those querying “media jobs” would value media careers advice and resources – even if it’s just to conclude that the industry isn’t for them. If you’re an organisation providing that service, your site would do better to be optimised along those lines. Providers of advice might argue that I’m misunderstanding what they do, but uptake has to be taken into account as a primary performance indicator.

So how are organisations out there doing on this? Here’s just a couple:

Skillset – the skills council for the creative and digital industries (whatever that means…)

Not bad in some areas – for more outcome-oriented keywords, say, “film jobs” or “tv jobs”, they’re usually within the top five of first page Google SERPs. They also claim to cover the games industry, and this is a sector which desparately needs realistic careers advice to be disseminated. On this point they fail hard – number three on the second page of results for “games design jobs” might as well be nowhere. Skillset’s domain is 13 years old and they’re inundated with good quality inbound links (such as a wealth of .ac.uk domain referrals) , so there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t rank well on this theme (hell, #1 on page 1 isn’t unrealistic). My guess at the problem? The content.

Prospects – the official graduate careers website

And a .ac.uk domain, to boot! They’re not a site specific to media, but keep in mind that the graduate talent pool is a major resource for all industries vaguely definable as “media”. They don’t rank on the first page for “media careers” or “media jobs” but if you pop “graduate” into the middle either of those phrases there they are. This makes sense, given their business as a big graduate recruitment portal, used by students, universities and recruiters alike, but it could be too small a niche given the flood of graduates out there that won’t include that extra term in their job searches. (And it’s worth noting from a legal point of view that you can’t exclude non-graduates from “graduate” recruitment: if the individual fulfils the criteria, with or without a degree, they can apply).

This is just a run-through of search visibility – landing-page user experience, and the quality of advice, is another matter. I’ve got a hunch that online is consistently under-used, and the massive potential for careers advice and CPD via the web is untapped. I think that’s in part because attempts to do so still think of it as a 1-2-1 or 1-to-many service, rather than taking a step back at the bigger picture of how individuals are sourcing advice and opportunities using the web.

I’ve not yet mentioned the high-ranking jobs portals that pWned the SERPs discussed above – places like totaljobs, Guardian Jobs, Mediaweek and Careermoves. It’s a mixed bag in terms of quality and relevance that needs further poking about, so I guess that’s the Part #2 of this post planned!

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